I won’t drown this note with the notes of Arcade Fire or fire out the best of the best from one of my favourite Internet memes–The Hipster Kitty. This really has nothing to do with indie rock bands. But it does.
The quote from the title comes from Royce Young who operates dailythunder.com–an Oklahoma City Thunder blog. And I’ve been saying this for weeks. Rose has become too mainstream for us. We all want to believe that only people with excessively tight jeans and large rimmed frames want to go against the mainstream–but in a weird sort of way, a lot of basketball experts are emerging as the new-wave of basketball hipsters. We want to base our entire MVP voting on advanced analytics, PER, win shares and scoff at the mainstream ‘eye-test’.
When Rose’s name emerged as the frontrunner, it was a well accepted position. Best record in the East. Best player. Had injuries problems with the team and still led them. Electric player. All seems to lead to the classical MVP choice but then the hipster slowly emerged from the shadows. “The media just wants to vote for a storyline”…”Dwight Howard makes a better statistical impact”…”Lebron James is the best player in the league still”…”How can we forget Kobe?”.
(Sidenote: I never read John Hollinger’s barrage of statistics regarding his case for Howard’s MVP deservedness because I don’t have ESPN Insider (which, by the way, if I had an editor and ESPN Insider it would make life so much easier) and to be honest, I can see Howard’s impact when I watch the games myself. The Magic are a poor defensive team and Howard bails them out all the time with great on and off-ball defence, timely blocks and is no longer a liability, at least to the same extent, on the offensive end.)
And here’s the point: we have a tendency to ride the waves of popular players until they crash on the shore where we mock and ridicule them until they retreat humbly back into the NBA waters. It happened to Yao Ming a few years back. When Yao came into the league everyone was all over the Yao train but once they realized he wasn’t the greatest player to walk the earth–the bandwagon emptied. The ‘haters’ came out in full force–“yeah, well if I was 7’5 I could block shots too”, “He should be doing more”, “He’s too soft”.
But as this happened, Yao’s stock plummeted and then everyone turned around again and said “whoa, Yao’s a 20 and 10 guy!”. He went from way overrated, to severely underrated and back to overrated because we ride the waves of popularity and Rose peaked too early in the MVP race. He was the mainstream candidate for too long.
Take Kevin Durant as a more recent example. C’mon, who didn’t love KD’s run with the Thunder last year? They almost took down the Lakers! This year? Umm…he’s not a serious MVP candidate despite leading the league in scoring again. Why? He had his time in the sun. He was the loveable storyline–an underdog story. Now Durant came out recently and made comments that the fans don’t notice him the same way anymore. Of course they don’t–you already led the league in scoring. So now, one could make the case that Durant is severely underrated. Next year, he’ll make a comeback. He’ll probably be an MVP candidate on the basis that “how are we overlooking the NBA’s best scorer?”.
It’s an up and down cycle. Lebron had his time down this summer and now the NBA’s hipsters are slowly emerging and saying that we shouldn’t hold him accountable for The Decision. The NBA hipsters almost pushed for a Griffin for MVP campaign in December before seeing the Clippers, well, be the Clippers. But the basketball hipster would have LOVED an MVP from the Clippers. The point is that the MVP race is more or less a battle between the mainstream and the hipsters at this point. What the hipster NBA writer wants to do (led by CPU Hollinger–who in the next 15 years will be revealed in a scandal as an IBM product) is push Dwight Howard into the Arcade Fire Zone. That perfect middling zone where not enough people know about his MVP candidacy so that its a big shock, but at the same time there is a faithful following of people that can feel vindicated for following something outside the norm. They want Howard to be named MVP and for every casual NBA fan to say “what the %!@#???”. And then the Howard fans get to praise how advanced metrics, PER and statistical analysis is finally emerging into the mainstream. Arcade Fire was that for every hipster music lover–“Finally! Someone in the world has good music taste”. Both NBA hipsters and real hipsters have that condescending, elitist tone in their voices: “Psh, how can you even listen to Katy Perry on the radio/how can you ever just follow the ‘eye-test’ when analyzing NBA games” so when their views get rewarded they feel vindicated.
I don’t want to discount the use of statistics. I think its a good thing for the progression of the game and adds a new element to a sport that features so many varying facets (salary cap management, statistical analysis and the actual games) but at some point we have to stop latching on to these ‘basketball hipster’ movements. We have to stop supporting the underdog just because everyone else has money on the favourite.
Rose was pushed hard by the ‘hipsters’ early and when he got too popular, they abandoned ship. He was the indie rock band that got too popular. D12 won’t go down the same route because casual fans don’t care about statistical analysis so the hipsters can pass it through as ‘something you’ve never heard of’. Howard is in prime position to enter the Arcade Fire Zone.
It’s happening for Executive of the Year as well. Masai Ujiri is trying to get passed as a dark horse candidate when, no matter how much I hate Pat Riley, and no matter how much I stand strong behind my Hair Gel to Trust ratio…
(Sidenote: I don’t trust Pitino or Calipari and if they ever showed up at my door looking to recruit my son I would give them the look from The Social Network where Zuckerbrg meets up with Sean Parker is enamoured with him. And Eduardo looks on like “No, Mark! No! This guy is such a sleeze-ball looking to cash in off of you and exploit you! HOW CAN YOU NOT SEE THIS?”
I’d be sitting in my den with Calipari trying to woo my future NBA son and give that look: “HOW CAN YOU NOT SEE THIS?”)
…Riley must win Executive of the Year. But everyone wants to sneak in and give Masai Ujiri the nod for EOY.
(Sidenote: Does anyone else not realize that if you want to give Masai Ujiri EOY, he should have to share it with Isiah Thomas who is awesomely running the New York Knicks secretly. I have to think the NBA will rig some lottery or compensate the Knicks somehow for allowing Thomas to run their front office–and are probably getting bonus points for letting him doing it as a secret advisor. It is one of the best storylines of the season. What in the world is James Dolan thinking? You just got Donnie Walsh to grab you from the very depths of salary cap hell and now you’re calling the guy you got you there in the first place for advice?
It’s like the scene from Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist where Michael Cera seems to fall in love with that other girl again and the audience is like “wait a second, didn’t she just leave you a heart-broken shell of yourself?” That’s Knicks fans right now. Just shocked. Isiah left us broken and destroyed and we’re going back to him even though there is clearly someone semi-competent at the helm finally?)
What’s my take for MVP? It’s Rose for me. And I appreciate the basketball hipsters trying to push the official hipster candidate for one of the most mainstream awards–but I love the way Rose plays. Tenacity, intensity, all-out effort. The guy plays well at any stage and has his team at the top of the East. Howard’s team has been struggling and could easily be ousted in the first round. Not only that, but Howard’s attitude has been less than stellar. He can’t hit free throws, let alone take any free throws without a 10 second call and a standard “Hey, Ref? I’m going to throw the ball to the baseline so you can grab it and then make your way to the scorer’s table to give me a technical so I can be suspended another game” move. Howard just doesn’t have the same attitude that Rose does and while yes, he may be making an impact for his team, his team still isn’t very good and looks far from a title contender this season–even with a roster shake-up.
After all this talk of music and basketball, we can be thankful that the Nickelback of the league won’t be getting any award consideration. And yes, I am of course referring to Eddie House.